They are drawn to take the journey toward individuation rather than individualism, and for many, that journey is not just a progression toward a healthy ego--invaluable as that is in itself--but also an opening to the transcendent dimensions of human experience.
For the next 12 months I will live as if there is no God. I will not pray, read the Bible for inspiration, refer to God as the cause of things or hope that God might intervene and change my own or someone else's circumstances. I will visit atheist gatherings and try it on.
Was Hitchens' incredulity acerbic and coarse? Irreverent and obscene? Depends on your tastes and sensitivities. More importantly, these qualities were imbedded in charm and wit that set up the discussion of religion in a way that awoke our reflective capacities.
There has been a recent surge of "atheist mega-church" gatherings where nonbelievers pack into rooms for rousing music, inspirational lectures and reflection. It's an attempt to gain the benefit of a religious-like community, but without God.
Whether or not one has a religion is not important. What is important is to recognize that the majority of people in the world do practice a religion -- and that their beliefs can be a force for good as well as evil.
Whatever possessed you to give nice atheists a one-way ticket to Heaven? According to Vatican Radio you said: "The Lord has redeemed all of us, all of us with the Blood of Christ: all of us, not just Catholics."
Jefferson, much the deist, held to the idea of a "designer" to explain the scientific origin of the universe. Enlightenment thinkers called this designer the "great clockmaker," but he was not the same God that interceded in the cosmos.
Although I've been reading and reviewing books for several decades, not until Salman Rushdie's memoir, Joseph Anton, have I realized how some part of me continues to look at books through callow eyes, to assess them naively.
I asked Yoko Ono -- who at 79 is as youthful, energetic and beautiful as ever -- how she picks the recipients, is there a committee or board? "No, I feel it in here," she said pointing to her heart, "It comes from the heart."
This is part of a larger task of how to turn us all toward each other in an open conversation about what it is to be human and how we should treat each other. Christopher Hitchens was integral to that conversation, and I miss him.